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Dodge Durango: RWD outlier in a world of FWD crossovers

This review first appeared in The Spokesman-Review.

2017 Dodge Durango

Durango’s rear-drive orientation contributes to exceptional tow ratings and enables Durango to carry a big V-8.

Consider the Dodge Durango, a rear-wheel outlier in a world of front-wheel crossovers.

Like the Jeep Grand Cherokee, whose platform it shares, the Durango uses a crossover-style unibody rather than a truck’s heavier body-on-frame platform. Both rigs shun the crossover’s front-wheel-drive convention, employing rear-wheel-drive instead.

This RWD orientation produces two major benefits: It contributes to Durango’s exceptional tow ratings, and it moves more weight rearward, which allows the use of a hefty V-8.

The unibody, of course, gives the seven-passenger Durango ($31,685, including destination) a crossover’s comfortable ride and capable handling

2017 Dodge Durango interior

The latest version of Chryslers’ uConnect connectivity suite is present — and can be had with a class-leading 9-inch touchscreen.

The Durango is more than a big workhorse, though. Though it’s grown a bit long in the tooth in its current third-generation form, interior materials quality and fit-and-finish remain quite good. The latest version of Chryslers’ uConnect connectivity suite is present — and can be had with a class-leading 9-inch touchscreen. High-end audio and infotainment systems are available and upper trims can be equipped with the latest safety and driver-assist technology.

Durango is not the most spacious of the three-row crossovers, but it’s one of a handful whose third row is roomy enough for adults. Large rear doors ease ingress and egress and a flip-and-folding second-row seat allows easy third-row access.

Changes for the 2017 model year include a new V-6-powered GT trim ($41,090) that underscores Durango’s burly looks with body-color exterior trim, dual exhaust tips, LED running lights and 20-inch rims.

Also included is a rearview camera, which is upgraded this year to allow the driver to watch the towed object through the driver-programmable Uconnect touchscreen, even as the Durango is rolling down the road.

All Durangos but the top R/T trim are powered by a 3.6-liter V-6 that makes 290 horsepower and 260 pound-feet of torque. The R/T ($43,090) gets a 5.7-liter V-8 that makes 360 hp and 390 lb-ft of torque. An eight-speed automatic is standard on both counts.

Properly equipped, the V-6 Durango can tow 6,200 pounds. The R/T is tow-rated to 7,400 pounds.

All-wheel-drive R/Ts get a low-range transfer case, which can be a driver’s best friend on a slippery boat launch or when easing a heavy load down a steep decline. A neutral gearbox setting allows V-8 Durangos to be flat-towed.

The R/T trim also fetches upgraded steering system, a sport-tuned suspension with lowered ride-height, red accent stitching and a Beats audio system. Think of it as the Durango with verve; it runs the 0-60 sprint in 6.2 seconds, while Six-cylinder trims slip into the 7-second range and feel strained under heavy acceleration.

At 5,000-pound-plus, the Durango is a heavyweight among full-size crossovers and feels it, with a firmly planted feel at highway speeds and a smooth ride. It carries a lot of bulk, though, and lacks the more agile responses of lighter competitors.

But buyers looking to lug big loads have weightier concerns than a rig’s athleticism; they want strong and sturdy and Durango fills that bill.

2017 Dodge Durango GT AWD
Vehicle base price: $29,995
Trim level base price: $40,095
As tested: $49,065
Options included 8.4-inch uConnect with GPS navigation; Beats audio; power liftgate; sunroof; rear entertainment center; trailer tow package; automatic high-beam headlamps and headlamp leveling; blind-spot and cross-path detection; power tilt-and-telescoping steering; rain-sensitive wipers; second-row tilt-and-tumble captains chairs; second-row console with armrest and storage.
Tow rating: 6,200 pounds (7,400 lb optional)
EPA rating: 21 combined/18 city/25 highway
Regular unleaded fuel specified

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